Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: April 2022
Tofino is situated on a peninsula on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is known for its ancient rainforests, endless sandy beaches, and rugged coastline. It’s a popular spot for hiking, surfing and just enjoying nature.
Day 1: Big Trees
After our tour at Horne Lake Caves, we were ready to get out of the rain. Lucky for us it’s just under a three hour drive to Tofino where we planned to spend the next three nights. Along the drive we stopped at Cathedral Grove to go for a hike and admire some super big old-growth trees, many of which are over 800 years old. Cathedral Grove is located in MacMillan Provincial Park, just off of the narrow highway. There’s parking and two trails on either side of the road.
We first hiked along the Old Growth Trail (600 metres), which mostly follows along a wide gravel path with a boardwalk section through the forest of ancient western red cedars. The landscape looked lush and green as the forest floor was carpeted in ferns and there was moss growing everywhere.
We then crossed the road to hike along the Living Forest Trail (400 metres), which connects with the Big Tree Trail (300 metres) to form a larger loop. These trails were a bit rough with all the puddles and mud from the rain. Along the way there were a few signs that provided more information about the types of trees found in the forest, which include the douglas-fir and bigleaf maple.
One of the highlights of the Big Tree Trail is that it leads to the largest tree in the park. This giant douglas-fir is over 800 years old, 76m tall and 9m wide.
We hopped back in the car and continued our drive to the west coast. We made one other detour to hike along the Giant Cedar Trail, which passes by an old growth forest of red cedar. Except the path was in super rough shape with all these fallen trees so we were quick to turn around and scrap it. Plus it was raining pretty hard.
We drove the rest of the way to Ucluelet, which is a small town just south of Tofino. By the time we arrived at our accommodations it was just after 5p.m and we decided to call it a day and get some rest and relaxation.
Day 2: Beaches
After making a cup of coffee (for K) and a cup of tea (for me), we were eager to start exploring Tofino, or rather Ucluelet. The sun was even shining a bit through the clouds. We started off with the Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop (2.6km loop), which is part of the larger Wild Pacific Trail. From the parking lot on Coast Guard Drive we found the trailhead easy enough which also contained a map of the area.
The path is wide and covered in gravel. It follows along the rugged coastline and contains a series of viewpoints and overlooks of the ocean every couple hundred feet or so. There’s also a few signs that provide more interesting information about the history of the area and about the shipwrecks along the western coast of Vancouver Island. The trail also passes by the Amphitrite Lighthouse. It was initially built out of wood in 1906 in response to a shipwreck in the area. After being destroyed by a storm, it was rebuilt in 1915 to resemble a bunker to withstand the rough conditions of the sea.
We continued along the trail and explored every single turnoff. Darker clouds were starting to roll in though.
Towards the end of the hike, it started to lightly rain. We saw a detour for the Bog Woodland Loop (300 metres) and decided to give it whirl since bogs are awesome and it was super short. Along the way there were a series of interpretive signs about the importance of bogs and the types of plants that can be found here, such as the Westcoast Bonsai and sphagnum moss. Once we looped back to the trailhead, it’s a short stretch back to the parking lot.
We headed back to our cottage to make some breakfast. By the time we finished eating the clouds were starting to clear. We drove into Tofino to hike the Tonquin Trail. We parked along Tonquin Park Road and walked a few hundred metres to the trailhead. The trail is wide and there are a few ups and downs with some steep sections. The path weaves through the forest and passes by three beaches: Tonquin Beach, Second Beach and Middle Beach. The tide was low which meant we could walk far out across the sand.
Middle Beach marked the end of the trail, so we turned around and walked back the way we came. We hit up the short detour to a viewpoint overlooking Second Beach.
We then drove to the nearby Tofino Mudflats which are located on the inner side of the Tofino peninsula. These mudflats are the most important wetland complex on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We drove along some sketchy gravel road with a few potholes and parked at a small parking lot at the end of the road. There’s a super short trail from the parking lot to a viewing platform.
On the drive to our next spot, we saw a sign for the Tofino Distillery and decided to check it out. We ended up buying a bottle of Limoncello and planned to make some bevvies in the evening.
We then drove to MacKenzie Beach. While there is no designated parking area to access the beach, we drove through the campground at the MacKenzie Beach Resort. Surprisingly there were even a couple of people camping. We found an empty campsite on the shoreline and walked down to the water.
At this point we were getting hungry so we stopped at the Tacofino food truck, which is reputed to serve the best food in town. It was a long wait to get our food, but totally worth it. We ate our food in the car though since all the picnic tables were full.
We drove back to our accommodations to take a break and pick up some groceries for the next few days. We headed back out later in the afternoon to take advantage of the fabulous weather. We hiked along the South Beach Trail (2.1km one-way) which starts from behind the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre within the Pacific Rim National Park. We first checked out the beautiful sandy beach.
We followed the trail along the shoreline, which consisted of a gravel path that turned into a narrow boardwalk. The views were spectacular. The trail leads to a junction where there’s a viewpoint of South Beach straight ahead and the start of the Nuu Chah Nulth Trail to the left. We hit up South Beach first.
We turned around and hiked back up the set of stairs to get to the Nuu Chah Nulth Trail (2.5km one-way). The trail mostly follows along a narrow series of boardwalks and walkways that leads to Florencia Beach. There’s a few interpretive signs throughout the trail that provided more information about the history and culture of the Nuu-chah-nulth people who inhabited this coast for over 5,000 years.
We wrapped up our hike just after 7p.m and circled back to Wickaninnish Beach one last time to admire the views and soak in the sun.
We finally headed back to our accommodations to make a late dinner.
Day 3: Boardwalks
We woke up super early this morning to try to squeeze in as much hiking as we could before the rain in the afternoon. After eating a quick bite to eat, we drove to Long Beach, which is situated within the Pacific Rim National Park and is the longest sand beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The best part about hitting the road early was that we had the beach all to ourselves. We could tell a storm was brewing from the look of the clouds.
We hopped back in the car and drove to Comber’s Beach (500 metres, one-way) where there’s a short, but steep trail that leads through a mossy forest down to a wide sandy beach.
We then hiked along the Rainforest Trail which consists of two separate loops. We started with Loop A (1km) which is located across the road from the parking lot. The trail follows along a boardwalk through a coastal rainforest of western red cedar and western hemlock. There are signs along the way that provide some fun facts about the ancient rainforest. We also stumbled upon a pair of the Parks Canada Red Chairs next to a particularly large tree.
Once we looped back to the trailhead, we crossed the road and hiked Loop B (1km) which is located at the back of the parking lot. The trail follows along a narrow boardwalk through the rainforest. The beginning portion of the trail leads through an area of the rainforest that is being restored. In the 1950s, part of the forest was stripped of vegetation to install an antenna. It was later used as a cone orchard and the site of grafting experiments with douglas-firs before the park decided to restore it back to a rainforest using naturally seeded trees from the area.
We then hiked along the Willowbrae Trail (1.4km one-way). It is part of a sea and land route that linked Tofino and Ucluelet before the current road was built. As such, much of the trail follows along an old road. The path leads to a junction. We first took the set of stairs down to Florencia Beach.
We climbed back up the staircase and turned right at the junction to hike along the Half Moon Bay Trail (1.7km one-way). The first stretch of the trail is relatively flat and follows along a narrow boardwalk through the forest. It then leads down a set of stairs to the beach.
We headed up the stairs and walked back the way we came to the parking lot. At this point we were getting hungry and decided to return to our cottage to make a very late breakfast.
We headed back out later in the day. The forecast was calling for 10 to 15mm of rain this afternoon and it had started to lightly rain outside. We weren’t too concerned as we saved a couple of short and easy trails that would be perfect in the rain. We first hiked along the Shorepine Bog Trail (800 metres) which loops across a boardwalk through a bog.
We then hiked along the Ancient Cedars Loop (1km), which is part of the larger Wild Pacific Trail. The trail loops through an old growth forest of sitka spruce, western hemlock and giant red cedars. A couple of the trees are estimated to be over 800 years old.
We continued along the Wild Pacific Trail to the Artist Points (2.7km), which features a series of viewpoints along the rocky coast and jagged rocks.
While the trail continues along the Ucluelet peninsula, we were getting tired. We drove back to our accommodations. We planned to wake up early the next morning to drive to Victoria.